My son is ready for his next 15 minutes of fame

Earlier in the year, my kids were featured in a TurboTax ad after an advertising agency found a photo of them on this blog. They actually earned enough money from that gig to pay for a two night stay at Great Wolf Lodge, a place they have been wanting to visit for months.

If any advertising agencies are still paying attention, it would appear that my son would like another shot at the big time, perhaps as the new spokesperson for a restaurant chain or food company.

You have to admit that he has the right look.

My children are stars in an Instagram ad. Apparently the entire world has seen it.

A large number of our friends - at least those with Instagram accounts - began sending us messages yesterday after having seen Clara and Charlie in a TurboTax ad. 

Rest assured that this was no surprise to us. Months ago an advertising agency contacted us after seeing a photo of the kids on my blog. After signing nondisclosures and negotiating terms and compensation, we agreed to the use of the photo in this ad.

We didn't realize the ubiquity that the ad would achieve. So many of our friends have seen it, and as if this moment, the ad has 180,749 likes and almost 2,000 comments.

TurboTax isn't messing around.  

We also decided that the compensation received would be used to pay for a weekend at Great Wolf Lodge, a place that the kids have been asking us to take them for months. We explained to them how we would be paying the trip - essentially with money they earned - and they were thrilled.  

This situation also illustrates the fundamental belief that I have in "putting yourself out there." Some day I will create a list of all the things that have come back to me thanks to my willingness to put myself out there - online, on stage, in print, and elsewhere. Unexpected, almost always positive responses from the world. 

Who ever said that domestic violence and sexual assault are hard subjects to talk about? What’s the deal, NFL?

I applaud the NFL for their recent “No More” campaign, targeting domestic violence and sexual assault. I hope they continue to raise awareness and assist victims in every possible way.


But their recent series of television ads baffle me. The ads, which feature prominent football players staring in silence at the camera, end with the message:

Domestic violence and sexual assault are hard subjects for everyone to talk about. Help us start the conversation.

I don’t think that domestic violence and sexual assault are hard to talk about at all.

Does anyone?

Perhaps it would be difficult to talk about these subjects with my children or my fifth graders. Maybe it would be difficult to discuss if I were the perpetrator of these crimes. But what is so hard about discussing these topics with law-abiding adults?

I honestly don’t get it. I can’t think of a single person in my life with whom I couldn't talk about sexual assault and domestic violence.

What am I missing?

Advertising goes both ways.

My daughter didn’t see a commercial until she was almost three years old. Though we thought this moratorium was a good idea, it turns out that she is now completely susceptible to advertising.

She’s once asked Elysha what stain remover she uses and was dissatisfied with the answer.


She still doesn’t watch very much commercial television, but when she does, she wants just about everything that she sees on the commercials (though thankfully she doesn’t seem to form any lasting attachments to any of it yet).

But it’s not all bad.

Today she saw a commercial for Chuck E. Cheese. I braced for the request. It didn’t come.


I got curious. I thought for sure that she would enchanted with the images presented on the television.  “Do you think we should go to Chuck E. Cheese someday?” I asked.

“Someday,” she said. “But the kids in that commercial are all look older than me, so it must be a place for big kids.”

That commercial just spared me at least a year of Chuck E. Cheese visits.

Advertising isn’t all bad.

Extremely susceptible to advertising

My daughter is four year-old and has watched almost no commercial television in her life. Other than the occasional sporting event or a snippet of news in the morning, we never watch television in the presence of our children, and our children only watch PBS or similar, commercial free, educational programming.

Occasionally, though, one of these shows are sponsored by a product, and that product will air a commercial just prior to the show. My wife and I have discovered that perhaps because she has been exposed to so little advertising in her life, Clara is extremely susceptible to the messages contained in commercials. She has criticized our choice of stain remover, requested a new brand of diaper for her brother and become fascinated with the idea of glow-in-the-dark overnight pull-ups.

Yesterday, she asked me this:

"Dad, the commercial said that Wittle Weeg moms can fight tough stains. What’s a Wittle Weeg mom, and do you think my mommy can fight tough stains, too?"

It might be time to expose her to a steady diet of advertising, in order to inoculate her from its influence before she learns to read and trips to the super market become impossible.

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Sorry, kid. Easy Bake Ovens are pink for good reason.

Around Christmas, a little girl became a momentary Internet sensation after appealing to Hasbro to make an Easy Bake Oven in a color other than pink or purple. Her brother had expressed a desire for an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas but discovered that this product only comes in pink and purple and is therefore only marketed to girls (though one could debate the gender-specificity of the color purple).

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The problem is not the color of the toy.

The real problem is that this little boy is one of only three or four boys in the entire country who wants an Easy Bake Oven.

While this may be an exaggeration, I am not far from the truth. Easy Bake Ovens are geared towards little girls because the vast majority of the children wanting an Easy Bake Oven are girls. While the choice of color and advertising may represent gender inequality, it is also reflection of the gender inequality that is inherently present in boys and girls when it comes to this toy.

For the vast majority of children, girls want Easy Bake Ovens and boys do not. While it is unfortunate that the tiny percentage of boys who want an Easy Bake Oven are forced into choosing from pink or purple, Hasbro knows full well that red or brown or blue Easy Bake Ovens would sit on store shelves gathering dust, regardless of their marketing.

It also costs considerably more to expand a product into multiple colors, and the management of production and stock levels would become much more complex. In this case, Hasbro knows that the vast majority of its Easy Bake Oven customers prefer the colors pink and purple, so they are simply maximizing profits by accommodating their primary consumer.

I made a similar argument in regards to an advertising campaign by Carter’s clothing that targets mothers, and I was right then as well. Companies must market to their primary consumer, and try as they might, some products simply skew along gender lines.

Mothers are the primary purchasers of baby clothing. Moreover, they want to be the primary purchasers of baby clothing. 

Similarly, little girls want Easy Bake Ovens.

Some might argue that if Hasbro began marketing products like this to boys, they might broaden their consumer base, but I don’t believe this for a second, and I suspect that Hasbro has done enough research already to know this as well. After all, if it were possible to convince boys that the Easy Bake Oven is a great toy for them as well, why wouldn’t Hasbro attempt to capture that market as well?

It amounts to a chicken-and-egg argument:

Do girls like Easy Bake Ovens because they are pink and purple, or are Easy Bake Ovens pink and purple because girls like them?

Before you answer, ask yourself this:

If Easy Bake Ovens were originally produced in black or brown or gray, would boys be their primary market today? Would the pretend-to-cook market have skewed male by this change in color?

Of course not. Like it or not, girls are more likely to enjoy baking and pretending to bake than boys.

Hasbro is merely acting responsibly to its shareholders by maximizing advertising revenue. The company has no responsibility to promote gender equality, especially when the gender equality would be impossible to achieve and yield no greater profit for the company.

If you truly believe that boys would love an Easy Bake Oven if marketed properly, give it a try. Launch your own toy company. Make your fortune.

If you find a way to make a profit, I will admit that I am wrong and work in your factory for a week for free.

If I’m right, I’ll merely say I told you so.

It’s often reward enough for me.